Men of Vision at the Helm of Facilities Department

Allan Beglarian

Even a well-oiled machine will perform only as good as its caretaker. And institutions are certainly no different. The care, guidance and vision of its leadership are vital to its successful function.

“Our managers are great. They listen and do every thing they can to help us and we are lucky to have good people at the top.” said Gus Rocha, custodial supervisor of facilities at the Glendale Community College, when asked about his managers. GCC is fortunate to have at its helm men who possess the determination to attain their goals.

Heading the facilities management department is Lew Lewis, a 65-year-old father of two, who has been at GCC for more than 14 years. ” I’ve worked this type of facilities environment for over 40 years, mostly in the military, the U.S. Air Force to be exact,” said the soft-spoken Lewis.

“It’s all about pride in whatever one does,” said Lewis, as his eyes scanned the room in thought, “It’s hard with the minimal staffing we have just to keep up.”

In his day-to-day work Lewis has to deal with inter-departmental issues as well as working with a host of contractors, insurance agents and department staff. It is during a meeting with Jeanette Tashiro, director of the Child Development Center and risk management staff that I ran into Lewis. They were gathered here to assess new improvements to the CDC facilities. Lewis walks around and examines things pointed out by Tashiro, and he confers with others, making and listening to suggestions.

On the walk back to the main campus, Lewis said, ” It’s an ongoing task to maintain the campus . . . it is a great place to work and after all these years I still enjoy coming to work.”

Lewis, who is also a grandfather, enjoys fishing camping and bowling. He proudly shows off a picture of his new candy-apple-red motorcycle and says with an excited smile, ” I’m taking up motorcycling now.”

When asked what he would like to say to the student body or the faculty, Lewis said, ” It would really help to keep the campus looking great if we could get a little more assistance from our students, small things, like putting the trash in receptacles, stopping the graffiti and generally picking up after themselves. After all, it’s their campus. Lets take pride in it . . .”

The manager of maintenance and operations, Dan Padilla, Lewis’ right hand man, is a 48 year-old native Californian who has been with GCC since 1988. Also a father of two, Padilla is a true multitasker.

He has just begun to answer the first question when the hand-held radio he carries explodes with chatter. No sooner than he turns it off, the telephone comes to life with persistence, an insurance agent is on his way to . . . He jots a few notes and looks-up at me, but before he can say a word his cell phone comes to life, he adjusts the head-set and responds while still writing notes from his previous conversation.

“We are in the midst of major changes in procedures and methods of cleaning. Our custodial staff will be provided training in the new methods of cleaning that is being adopted by large facilities like ours across the country.” Padilla said.

“These next few months will see major changes in the way we operate. Now that we have a budget for custodial equipment we can start acquiring much needed equipment and materials. Then training and rolling out the new cleaning schedule will soon follow.”

Padilla has a genuine concern for all who are affected by his job. “I believe friendliness and teamwork fosters a deeper sense of commitment to the college, and if we have to spend most of our time here working, we should be enjoying that time as much as possible.”

He goes on to say, “team work will help the morale of employees. When a group of well-trained and equipped people focuses their energy on a common task more is accomplished, especially if the work is well planned.”

Padilla believes that technology can and will better the human condition. ” I’ve always been interested in making things better. New ways of doing things, such as Microfiber cloth, which can clean pencil and grease marks using just water – more effective, using less energy and chemicals to do the same work.”

“New no-touch Vectrom-cleaning, a cleaning method that does not require the use of solvents, which is safer, healthier way of cleaning. Backpack Vacuums with HEPA filters which trap dust particles from going into the air, increasing air quality for occupants and the person vacuuming, for use by employees, which studies have demonstrated will cause less back injuries than using the old uprights.”

Asked for any words to the student body, Padilla said, ” I hope that the increase in care for our campus will encourage the students to take greater pride in their campus. I would like the students to view this campus like they would their own home. Not just keep it clean but don’t allow others to trash their place.”

Padilla turns on his handheld radio and it instantly fills the room with words of employees across the campus. With a reassuring smile he concludes,

“Everyone has to work together to improve the quality of this campus.”